The Page a Day Writers Group

My Grand Jete to Writing, by Amy Wallen

Posted on: May 18, 2010

 

Amy Wallen

I met our guest blogger, author Amy Wallen, a couple of years ago at DimeStories, a three-minute fiction open mic event (www.dimestories.org). Amy emcees this everpopular monthly gathering with welcoming grace and sharp wit. And now, in her own words…

My Grand Jete to Writing

By Amy Wallen

When I was 29, I started ballet lessons.  I thought by some sort of pink leotard osmosis I would become a graceful waif.  That my leaps would become long lines of elegance.  My turns helixes of wonder. I couldn’t wait to get to the studio on the days of my lessons to stretch at the barre, to turn my feet to east and west, tilt my chin just so, create an artistic line from my shoulders to the tips of my fingers.  In the floor-to-ceiling mirrors, which surround every studio, I could see my pirouette with crooked form, and my grand jete with jutting jaw, my arabesque with swooped back, so I avoided the mirror and just kept practicing.  Inside my head, I could listen to the music, the ballet mistress’s voice and enter the deep silence of every position as I found that place where I just sensed it was right.  I entered that zone by concentrating on finessing every detail from the inside.  And, I got better.  Never would Broadway or the Kirov be calling my name, not just because I wasn’t trying hard enough or my competition was too tough, but I had age against me.  Still, in my mind, my dream became true. In reality, I’m slump-shouldered and wobble in high heels.  But, in my imagination, I had let myself be who I wanted to be and I loved every bleeding toenail of it. 

I started taking my writing more seriously around the same time.  Luckily, slumped shoulders are essential for being a writer. But, I had to maintain this fantasy in my head for more time than I’d like to admit. When my novel MoonPies and Movie Stars was published one pointed toe of my fantasy stepped over to this side of reality, and then little bit more of it came true when my book reached #10 on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list.  But I would be kidding myself if I didn’t say the writing fantasy still swirls around inside my head because only part of the fantasy has come true (I’m still not Flannery O’Connor nor David Sedaris), and mainly because it’s the best way I found to truly believe in myself.  It’s how I get through rejection and slumps.  I do this in the same way that I did with ballet—I don’t look in the mirror and focus on what I can’t fix, instead I dwell on the details that I can finesse.  I keep practicing until it feels right inside of me.

Secret:  Some days I put on my pointe shoes and Balanchine sings out corrections and Stravinsky pours out of the piano inside my head, and if you could see what I see, you’d swear Giselle is being performed in my attic office, plus I’d be twenty pounds lighter. 

My ballet fantasy didn’t end because I no longer study dance. My friends roll their eyes when I brag that I can no longer practice ballet because my excellent turn out in fifth position ruined my hips.  Even though I’m too old to practice, the fantasy continues with physical tribulations that every dancer has.  Rejection and suffering, it’s part of reality, so I’ve made it part of my fantasy too.  The way I see it, if reality doesn’t work out the way I plan, I can always escape to my fantasies.

If anyone asks, I gave up ballet when I took up piano at 40.

Bio:  Amy Wallen is the bestselling author of MoonPies and Movie Stars.  She is also creator of DimeStories, 3-minute stories read by the author and inspiration for NPR’s Three-Minute Fictions, and you can catch her monthly irreverent column Unconventional Relationships on The Faster Times at www.thefastertimes.com/unconventionalrelationships.  She also writes the occasional book review for the Los Angeles Times and other national magazines and teaches at the New York State Writers Institute and Idyllwild Arts Workshop every summer.  In her spare time, she edits manuscripts for submission to agents, helping others to fulfill their publication fantasies.  You can read more about her writing life at www.amywallen.com.

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3 Responses to "My Grand Jete to Writing, by Amy Wallen"

Yes, to stretch our writing muscles and practice until it feels right inside- a worthy goal. Let that pen dance! Thank you, Amy.

Amy, thanks for stopping by. And thank you for reminding me how important it is to dream. In my head I’m a rock star playing to millions or living on a ranch in Taos. Or when it comes to my writing, I am that memoirist who agents are fighting over to represent and publishers are one upping each other until my advance is millions of dollars. Okay, okay, but a girl can dream, right?

Nice to see someone articulate what I’ve been doing in my head for years. It encourages me to see how well the fantasy thing has worked/ is working for you. Congratulations on your successes to date, Amy, and looking forward to many more to come.

Trish Wilkinson

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Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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